GAA Football

Down vacancy had no influence on my decision to resign as Louth manager says Pete McGrath

Peter McGrath has made the decision to quit as Louth senior football manager Picture by Margaret McLaughlin
Andy Watters

PETE McGrath admits he had made his decision to walk away from Louth well before Eamonn Burns resigned as manager of his native Down.

After a season at the helm of the ‘Wee County’ resulted in relegation and a Championship campaign that yielded a single victory in London, Rostrevor native McGrath weighed up player availability and commitment issues and decided he “couldn’t see a way forward”. He officially resigned on Wednesday night, but had made up his mind well before then.

“It wasn’t a decision I took lightly,” he said.

“It was always going to be a challenge. I came across a lot of good people, a lot of players who were committed and keen to do well but on the other hand we haemorraghed a lot of players early in the season and even over the course of the season.

“That was a source of disappointment and that weakened the fibre of the side going forward – it didn’t make it easy for management or those players who stayed with us. In some instances we invited players in but not too successfully or they came in and didn’t stay. It just became a difficult experience.”

Eventual semi-finalists Carlow ended Louth’s involvement in the Leinster Championship. McGrath rallied his troops to a morale-boosting win in London but his side’s summer came to end against Leitrim in round two of the Qualifiers.

“We had a disappointing Championship campaign,” admitted the two-time All-Ireland winner.

“Even after the victory in London in the Qualifiers, we had difficulties with players in between that match and the Leitrim match who were leaving the squad.

“Numbers were a big problem. It just made me feel that there wasn’t a lot I could do in the short term or the medium term to turn it around.

“I’ve nothing but admiration for the players who stayed but it became difficult to see how it was going to change. In Louth they don’t have a great legacy of success and maybe that takes away from the appetite for players to play county football. It’s kind of a vicious circle – if people don’t feel it’s worthwhile then you maybe don’t get the players who could be top performers at this level.

“When I looked at it pragmatically in the cold light of day, I couldn’t see a way forward.”

News of his apparent availability will set tongues wagging that a return to the Down helm could be on the cards for McGrath. Burns stepped aside on Tuesday after three years at the helm, but McGrath made no comment on whether he’d be interested in replacing him.

However, he did say: “I’ll put one thing to bed – my decision in my own mind precedes Eamonn’s decision to step down from Down by a number of weeks.

“I said to myself: ‘Eamonn resigned on Tuesday and I know if the decision of mine comes out now, people will says ‘he’s left Louth to come to Down’, but that is not the rationale at all.

“If Eamonn hadn’t gone, my decision was made in my mind a couple of weeks ago. People can put two and two together, but what they’ll be getting is five, not four. The Down thing is a completely separate issue.”

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